In January, nearly 30 years to the day after the death of ‘queen of crime’ Agatha Christie, a new theatre company will be launched in her name. The Agatha Christie Theatre Company (AGTC), a partnership between the writer’s estate and West End producer Bill Kenwright, has exclusive rights to create new touring productions of Christie’s original stage plays.

The first production out of the AGTC stable will be a revival of the 1952 Poirot mystery The Hollow, which will open at the Theatre Royal Windsor from 11 to 21 January 2005, ahead of an extensive regional tour. It will be followed in 2007 by The Unexpected Guest and in 2008 by Spider’s Web, with future productions of Black Coffee, Witness for the Prosecution and Verdict also planned.

The new touring outfit is part of a wider initiative to repopularise Christie for the 21st century. Next month, the West End will see a major new version of the 1939 remote island-set thriller And Then There Were None (See News, 29 Jul 2005). Updated by Kevin Elyot, directed by Steven Pimlott and starring Gemma Jones and Tara Fitzgerald, it opens at the Gielgud on 25 October 2005 (previews from 14 October).

Over the past five years, Chorion, which owns the rights to the Agatha Christie estate, has been successfully relaunching the author’s Marple and Poirot works in print and on television, bringing in new writers to reinterpret the stories for a modern audience. The launches of And Then There Were None and AGTC follow a four-year moratorium on any stage productions – not including The Mousetrap, which is not part of Chorion’s ownership portfolio - while the new work was developed.

Commenting on AGTC, Christie’s grandson and chairman of Agatha Christie Ltd, Mathew Prichard, said: "We are delighted to be joining forces with Bill Kenwright to present these first-class new productions of my grandmother's work. Her plays remain as enduringly popular as ever and, as part of the major re-branding of her work in all media which my company is currently undertaking, we are thrilled to be a part of this initiative to ensure her plays are presented in productions of the high quality which they deserve."

Though she died on 12 January 1976, Agatha Christie remains one of the world’s most popular novelists. With total sales of two billion books to date, she is outranked only by Shakespeare and the Bible. In total, she wrote 80 novels (an average of two every year for most of her life) and short story collections as well six romance novels (under the name of Mary Westmacott), two books of poetry, a children's book, two autobiographical works and 19 plays. The Mousetrap, now in its 53rd year in the West End, is the world’s longest-running play.

- by Terri Paddock